Friday, January 16, 2004

George Mindling Column 1-16-2004

Port Charlotte Must Look to the Future


A recent newspaper ad for a sign installer in Port Charlotte drew few responses in 10 days. This was for a full-time installer, with benefits at a good salary. The same company also placed an ad at the same time for part-time clerical work, only a 30-hour a week, with no benefits, at $6.50 an hour. That ad drew 52 responses.

Port Charlotte has the highest per capita number of single female parents in the state. Will there ever be enough employment to satisfy the number of often well-trained office and clerical people who must work one or two jobs just to make their rent or car payments? Not if the current attitude of standing with our backs to the future continues in Charlotte County. It is also difficult to compete with Lee, Collier or Sarasota counties for craftsmen labor as long as those areas pay a higher scale than Port Charlotte.

While the social and economic factors that cause Charlotte County to have a disproportionate number of single parents is an ongoing discussion, the inability of the local economy to employ these people is an indication of our limited economic diversity. For many of the unemployed, their parents - and now their grandparents - are becoming beacons of hope. People on retirement incomes, well beyond their peak earning periods in their lives, now find their offspring can't support their own families on wages paid here. They become not only the new home, but often the prime financial support as well.

Grandparents raising grandkids has become commonplace in Charlotte County. Grandparents have become more than daytime babysitters while their children are at work; they have now taken a mainstream role of guardianship as well.

The opponents to economic growth in Charlotte County would prefer to go back 10 or 15 years in time. "Let everything take care of itself" was a common attitude then, and it has resulted in the inability of Charlotte County to maintain economic parity with the rest of Southwest Florida.

The Charlotte County Commission's duty is to all residents, including the future ones. They are our children and our grandchildren. They will live here long after we are gone. Courage often means doing what is right for the future while the opportunity exists. We do have courageous commissioners, now bombarded by vocal and often overbearing opposition who want to return to the past - the past of only basic retirement homes and no infrastructure to support them! Commissioners are trying to do the right thing for Charlotte County by ensuring that our children and our families have a chance for employment and education today and tomorrow alike. Our future cannot be shackled to our past.

Those who want a better place to live in the future Charlotte County should not stand silent while a vocal opposition minority tries to drive the political bus. The road in Charlotte County can go backward as well as forward.  It depends on who is in the driver's seat.

George Mindling © 2004

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